The timing of a two-week Covid lockdown on the brink of school holidays could not have come at a more inopportune time for both families, businesses hoping for a lucrative holiday period, and their employees.
Due to rapid spread of the Eastern Suburbs Covid cluster in Sydney, NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, on advice from NSW Health, imposed lockdown restrictions on the Central Coast, effective from 6pm on Saturday, June 26, until 11.59pm on Friday, July 9.
Within hours of the announcement, the panic buying at supermarkets started, shelves were cleared of toilet paper and queues grew longer outside waiting to get inside to stock up on groceries before the stay-at-home order came into effect.
Many businesses, pubs and clubs, closed their doors and sent employees home, with some eateries being able to pivot to contactless takeaway orders.
As a result of the lockdown orders, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will become available on July 4 for Coast residents who can’t attend work as a result of state imposed health restrictions.
Eligible people will receive $500 if they’ve lost 20 hours or more of work, and $325 if they’ve lost less than 20 hours of work.
They must not have liquid assets of more than $10,000 or be in receipt of other payments.
Other payments that might be available to eligible people include Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment and JobSeeker Payment.
Residents can now only leave home to shop for food or other essentials, for medical care or compassionate needs (including to get vaccinated unless you have been identified as a close contact), for exercising outdoors in groups of less than 10 or for essential work or education, where you cannot do this from home.
School children have been left at a loose end with holiday events cancelled, as well as other community events such as Naidoc Week.
Sport matches are not permitted and the streets and centres are near to empty.
Penalties for not following restrictions are enforceable by Police, and this includes leaving the home for non-essential reasons, not social distancing and non-essential travel.
Everyone is encouraged to be tested if they exhibit any symptoms.
Central Coast Health said that there would be limits on visitors to hospitals and healthcare centres during the stay-at-home orders.
Visitors will only be allowed for patients receiving end-of-life care or palliative care, patients with dementia requiring additional carer support, parents visiting children and partners supporting women giving birth.
Funerals are limited to one person per 4sqm with a cap of 100 people and masks must be worn indoors, except at home.
Central Coast Council has temporarily closed a number of its facilities but assures the community it will continue to deliver all essential services.
Council services that will continue during the current lockdown include water and sewer; waste collection; road repairs; public toilets; parks, playspaces and beaches for exercise only; emergency callouts and customer inquiries through the call centre, although the council administrative buildings are closed.
The Council meeting on Tuesday, June 29, went ahead via zoom.
Libraries are closed, as well as leisure centres, gyms and pools, theatres and the Regional Gallery, The Entrance Visitor Information Centre, senior and youth centres, and all community centres such as halls.
Holiday parks remain open for essential travellers only, however, any visitors to the Central Coast from June 21 must adhere to Public Health Order requirements and follow stay-at-home orders for a period of 14 days after leaving the region.
With the school holidays now underway, Parliamentary Secretary for Central Coast, Adam Crouch, is calling on Sydneysiders to stay away and not visit the Central Coast region.
“The school holidays are normally one of the busiest times of the year for local businesses and accommodation providers, but unfortunately the COVID-19 outbreak means that people must stay at home,” he said.
“If you are on the Central Coast right now but your home address is not a Central Coast suburb, please go home.
“The only reasons to leave home are shopping for essentials, medical care or compassionate needs, outdoor exercise, and essential work or education commitments.”
Crouch said the Public Health Order specified that “taking a holiday is not a reasonable excuse” for leaving home.
“We need everyone to abide by the restrictions so that our Health experts can stop COVID-19 from spreading any further,” he said.
“Central Coast residents are the eyes and ears for Police, which is why I’m encouraging people in our community to report any possible violations of the Public Health Order to Crime Stoppers.”